Friday, 25 November 2016

The Year of the Plague

Vulgo & ab effectu atram mortem vocatibant.
                                            - Pontanus, Rerum Danicarum Historia

Image result for black death

Looking back over the last year's worth of posts, you might be excused for thinking it's been a rather quiet year for we who Woff. But no! As previously mentioned, we've been playing a lot of Zombicide: Black Plague. Enough that we finished the campaign that comes with the core game. 

Time for a review!

Image result for zombies

The game has been out for a while, after one of Cool Mini or Not's trademark successful Kickstarters. Kas, glutton for punishment that he is, missed the actual event, picked up the game on eBay and liked it so much he's managed to round up all the extras that came with the Kickstarter. 

It's a cooperative affair. The zombies spawn according to the draw of a card, and then obey predetermined rules . Co-op dungeons are this years hygge in board game terms - everything on kickstarter is coop. The days of the player may be limited.

Hurrah, says this traditional monster player! How nice to a part of the team instead of the problem for a change. The AI of the game is very effective, starting with a dribble of zombies that ramps up to a flood. How fast that goes depends on how fast you level up, which in turn depends mostly on how fast you kill zombies. So with careful farming, you can control how quickly it gets nightmarish. 

Image result for zombies
This is how I remember clubbing in my teens

There are various flavours of zombies to keep it varied. Tougher fatties, faster runners and spawny necromancy keep you on your toes, although the huge packs of fodder are not to be underestimated. We also play with the NPC pack expansion, which gives you various alternative sculpts of standard walkers. Collecting a set of five different ones nets you a nifty special weapon, which is a fun touch.

Using a few simple elements in terms of board and rules, you get a lively set of different objectives. Zombie management is the key elemrnt. You usually need to search plenty and quickly for the tools you need to survive. Mostly this is better weaponry, as your heroes start off fairly puny. The largest zombie type, the abomination, can only be killed by dragonbile (fantasy napalm) that needs a torch to ignite, and you dont have either at the start. 

Searching means opening rooms, however, and opening rooms spawn waves of zombies. Do you open the hugest ones early when things are quiet and risk a large wave you aren't ready to deal with? Or do you stay small and risk ploughing through neck-deep dead later?

The tactical stuff depends on this kind of choice. There's more luck than skill involves in general, a bad draw of cards or poor dice rolls will finish you off much faster than poor thinking will.  Good luck on searching makes a big difference too, with powerful weapons or spells making a game easy very fast. Its a tribute to the game that despite that, it's still fun and exciting. It's well balanced too, with your team generally able to deal with the tides of fortune with a bit of fast thinking. It's also a flaw in the game that sheer bad luck in terms of which zombies turn up where screws you over a bit too often. In all our games, the main reason we lost was luck of the draw rather than tactical error.

Image result for zombies
Must... find... torch...

See, necromancers add new spawn tokens when they arrive, and rather than try to take on the heroes, they want to get to the nearest existing spawn area to escape. If they do, the new spawn token they arrived with becomes permanent. If you already have six on the board when a necromancer escapes, it's game over. Necromances have another trick, which is that if two of them are next to each other on the board at the end of the zombie turn, they teleport away together. Unlucky deployment can mean one appears at the start of a turn next to one who arrived last turn, then they both vanish before you can react. Which feels annoying rather than exciting, especially when it happens several games in a row.

Image result for zombies
As an analogy, imagine if Bond Films always had the same villain. This guy. Every. Single. Time. 

We actually changed the rules for this after a while, so that necromancers only teleport at the start of their turn, not the end.  At least you have one turn to try and cope that way, which helps. Using a lot of expansions as we were added to the problem here, we stuck a lot of new stuff in fairly early. Superfast necromancers, wall-smashing undead minotaurs, those fucking crow flocks - it seemed to skew the balance of the game in the enemy's favour a bit without necessarily adding much fun,

I'd suggest you need to rebalance the decks a bit or decide as a group how to handle all the new stuff. Crows especially, they add nothing but annoyance. They turn up very often and clutter the board. An occasional large swarm of those fast and fragile pests I'd like, not every turn. Even tbe models are annoying, too big for the squares and prone to tipping. 

Using one or maybe two necro characters on a level would keep them rare and exciting rather than an inevitable roster of bastards. The core game is strong enough that it doesn't really benefit a lot from the bonuses. That said, I'm looking forward to the Wolfsburg campaign. Ten levels of standard zombies is enough for me, I want to kill rabid dogs now.

Image result for zombies
Or these guys.

I have the same minor gripe with all the kickstarter bonus heroes. The core game has a nice balance, and I'm not sure the extra choice really adds much. Especialy when many seem to be the same tricks with mild variations on composition. Lovely models of course, a painters dream, but bland in rules terms. Plus I've been playing it over skype, so I can't fondle them lovingly like a true nerd. 

There are also too many heroes who (when levelled up) can deal with abomnations rather easily. That detracts from the game for me, I'd rather keep the big bads rarer and deadlier. The early games where you're forced to use the excellent noise mechanic to kite an unkillable horror about the board were much more fun than later ones where our giant ogre barbarian could kill them like chickens. Very enabling to turn the tables, of course! But I don't like enabling heroes even when I am one. Goes against the grain, it seems.

Image result for zombies
Always burn the barge. And then take their legs. More fun for everyone, right?

Overall? I love the game. A level takes an hour or two, three for the biggest including reruns, and its quick, simple to explain and fun to play. I'd quite like to get myself a copy, although maybe one of the original walking dead style Zombicide games for variety. Or even play Mantic's Walking Dead, a warband skirmish with added zombies on the board, not that my life needs another skirmish game when I still want to go back to Frostgrave. Either way, I'm looking forward to playing more of this game, as long as we can leave the bloody crows at home.

Image result for sad crows game of thrones

No comments:

Post a Comment